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Ask an Expert: Westminster’s Writer-in-Residence, Kael Weston

Kael Weston

by Stephanie Held (’19)

Before becoming Westminster’s writer-in-residence, Kael Weston, spent 11 years with the US State Department, seven of which were spent in Iraq and Afghanistan. After leaving the State Department, Kael wrote the acclaimed book The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan, which guides readers through the wars from his perspective.

Originally from Utah, Kael came to Westminster on the recommendation of his close friend and member of Westminster’s Board of Trustees, Kim Adamson. Kim and Kael met while working in Fallujah, Iraq, as a marine and diplomat respectively.

Kael’s two-year commitment as writer-in-residence includes teaching classes about popular depictions of war and US foreign policy and mentoring students in writing.

How did you begin your career with the State Department?

“. . . thought I was going to be on a kind of a PhD-professor track, and did a PhD first-year at the London School of Economics in International Relations. At that point, I decided I was probably a better fit for foreign policy as practice versus foreign policy maybe as theorized. I joined the State Department and that then led me to a whole host of interesting experiences, which is a big part of my book.”

Why did you decide to switch careers and leave the State Department?

“I think at one level was ready to find a different challenge, and at another level, I was burned out. I also wanted to write. My title at Westminster is writer-in-residence, and I don’t think I could have done the type of book I did—with a great publisher and editor—by staying in government.”

Have you always considered yourself a writer or was that a skill you picked up later in life?

“I always liked to write. I’ve always found that words have their own power. And even though I represented the most powerful country in the world—in that we have the most tanks and aircraft carriers and whatever else—I still think that words and sentences and pages can move mountains more than anything else. So, I didn’t know what I wanted to write about or how, but I believed I had some skills.”

Is The Mirror Test your first book?

“Yes, it is my first book, but it won’t be my last book. It’s too much of an addiction. I’m in the process now of really focusing on the teaching that I’ve got ahead at Westminster, but by the end of the year, or maybe by the middle of the year, if all goes well, I’ll have another proposal together.”

What are your responsibilities as writer-in-residence at Westminster?

“I’m teaching three classes this year. The other big part of my job—which I’ve done a bit of already—is being a mentor as much as I can.  example , I helped a student get into my publisher in New York, and I think she had a great visit there meeting with a bunch of people who worked on my book—she’s going to be applying for various internships there.”

 

 


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